Recognising Rosy Retrospection

Ask your grandparents about when they were younger. You’ll probably be told about how great everything was back then, especially compared to now. Or think back to 2019 – everything was amazing, we didn’t have to think about masks, and there wasn’t a daily COVID-19 infection or death rate broadcast on TV. 

But were things really as good as we remember them? The cognitive bias rosy retrospection can help explain why we view the past with rose tinted glasses. 

Rosy retrospection refers to the phenomenon whereby remembering our past helps us look at it more affectionately, especially when comparing it to the present. It is often compared to nostalgia; however nostalgia isn’t as biased as rosy retrospection can be. 

This distortion can increase the inaccuracy of recalling our past and present. It can also change public perception of events and time periods. For instance, if there are political rallies and protests, these events may skew people’s perceptions of modern day politics.

How can we stop ourselves from viewing the past with rose tinted glasses? We can take a minute to stop and think about why we hold such opinions of the past and present. When you think ‘there just aren’t any pop groups worth listening to today’, ask yourself why you hold this view, and when you’re thinking back to. 

Recognising this bias in yourself can help you make more informed decisions.

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